nothing but concrete

From photographs, the real Furillen looks like an industrial wasteland of rough shingle and grey concrete dust. There are plants, flowers and trees, but even these appear to be from the wrong side of an apocalypse. Just my kind of place …

SONY DSC

Although few people pass comment on the ground textures at the Second Life version of Furillen, they are – alongside lighting and geometry – crucial to giving the sim its particular atmosphere and feel. What I did here was quite unusual, although certainly not original.

I went for complete uniformity.

Nothing but concrete, everywhere …

slag heaps 01_009

When designing a sim in Second Life you can set the texture of the ground at four different levels. I have the same setting on every level, using an identical concrete texture everywhere – even on the slag heaps.

The exact texture I use has changed over time. I started with a realistic concrete – very grey – but although this looked fine in some light, there was a repeat to it that looked too obvious, especially on low graphics.

Furillen

Then, until recently, I opted for a creamier concrete mix, with a grungy tinge to it that was good in most light and graphics settings.

Although some people mistook this for snow – and why not, given that the stuff falls constantly at Furillen – it gave the sim a slight weirdness, an air of unreality, that was difficult to pin down.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/132404444@N03/22587218923/in/pool-furillen/

When the light settings were changed recently, the subtle repeat in this texture showed through more: it looked stripy.

So I changed the mix. There is now a seamless concrete texture.

surreal land a

To me, in this light, the sim looks more surreal than ever.

grounded b

seeing the light

All Second Life photographers have a thing about light, it transforms what you capture in a more dramatic way than is generally possible in real life photography. For sim designers, too, light matters to how they conceive a build, which ground textures they use, the general atmosphere they want to create.

blizzard a

When I visit a sim the first thing I do is check the light settings the sim builder has used. It enables me to see a place through their eyes. I might then revert to my own settings to take pictures, but sometimes I stick to the intended settings because they were well thought out and work well.

Furillen 1

Two of the best and most reliable SL photographers who specialize in landscape and sim photography and whose work I closely follow – Ziki Questi and Loverdag – make a point of using the intended light settings. As Loverdag explains, it shows off the sim in its ‘correct’ light – and she is especially meticulous in explaining how her pictures have been processed.

Furillen

Some of the most interesting and original light settings at Second Life sims have been created by Bryn Oh, whose The Gathering provides the latest evidence that she is a truly innovative and original artist who – alongside Cica Ghost – has taken the business of sim design to an entirely new level.

Until recently I was using a variant of one of Bryn’s past windlight settings – Immersiva Grey Dust – at Furillen. Initially I fixed the time of day, but then I created a day cycle of 20 stops. Each cycle lasts 6 hours, and represents a 24 hour period in the real world.

The result was wonderfully moody and dynamic.

Loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is the richness of self.

But there were drawbacks too. If you happened to visit the sim at one of the darker moments it could be off-putting. And the clouds were fast moving – a feature of the day cycle in Second Life which seems impossible to fix. It adds drama, but also lag. And it can be less than relaxing.

Seeking balance

Partly with these issues in mind, I switched to a different light setting this week. With January upon us and the days in the real world beginning the lengthen again, I have opted for a blue-ish light, which has an early morning sun casting a faint, white glimmer on the sea.

grounded bb

As usual, I have been asking for feedback from visitors, whether positive or negative. Once I have a better sense of this, I will think about turning this setting into a day cycle.

always dawn

Until then, it’s always dawn at Furillen.

the man who fell to earth

bowie a

Yesterday was Bowie day at Furillen. I streamed the following albums:

Space Oddity (1969)
The Man Who Sold The World (1970)
Hunky Dory (1971)
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972)
Alladin Sane (1973)
Diamond Dogs (1974)
Young Americans (1975)
Station to Station (1976)
Heroes (1977)
Lodger (1979)
Scary Monsters [and Super Creeps] (1980)
Let’s Dance (1983)
Outside (1995)
Heathen (2002)
Reality (2003)
The Next Day (2013)
Blackstar (2016)

I will let the stream play on today, before reverting to the usual ambient music.

I had a fascinating time going through Bowie’s catalogue: the incredibly productive period in the 1970s, of course, but also some real gems from later on. Even supposed duds like Outside (1995) contain some great music.

As for Blackstar – the man’s style, in passing, leaves me speechless.

I also recommend this video, which is of David singing ‘Heroes’ at my favourite festival, Glastonbury, in 2000.

 

the end of the pier

With the end platform now in place, Furillen’s pier is finished.

pier complete a

As I mentioned in another blog entry, this was the result of a fortuitous meeting I had at Furillen with KT Syakumi, a highly skilled builder – she calls herself a ‘craftsperson’ – who stepped up to the challenge.

The result speaks for itself.

https://flic.kr/p/D26BM4

This really is a thing of rare beauty.

Cold landscapes 1

Like the airstream that looks out towards it, the pier’s impact is enhanced – for me, at least – by its correspondence to the real thing.

furillen-trailer

Although I moved the airstream to the right – it simply works better that way inworld – the comparison is striking when viewed from the south.

fuillen north

All credit for this must go to KT. She was meticulous in her use of photographs to get the structure of the pier right – as far as Second Life prim constraints will allow – and to reproduce textures from the original.

While many people talk – rightly, I must say – of Furillen’s unique atmosphere in Second Life, this is really the first structure that can be seen only on this sim.

Cold landscapes 2

I don’t think it will be the last.

geometry

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, geometry is crucial to the lay-out of Furillen as a sim. It seemed important to me not just to represent the contrast between minimalist beauty and brutal industrialism as a contrast in textures. This is fine, but too simplistic.

I wanted to build this opposition between nature and machine into the very heart of the sim. This meant having to play around with form.

The signature tree line is the best example of this principle at work.

treeline b

The trees themselves are thoroughly natural: bare, slightly green with a hint of snow on the bark. But they are arranged in a very precise and deliberate way – as firs so often are, of course.

Furillen

So that’s all there is to it? Not quite.

Pan out. South of the tree line, set back, is another line.

treeline c

An echo.

Furillen

This is almost exactly the same length as the line of trees, and consists of electricity poles made of of concrete – mixed with the very limestone, perhaps, that was dug out of the ground here.

treeline d

For me, this blurs the distinction between what is natural, and what is not.

Connected

This is probably the better way to think about Furillen.

It’s not simply about stark contrasts. There is something more subtle going on.